The paradoxical nature of relationships is excruciating. There’s this joke of singledom hanging over our heads when we are unattached, but as soon as we find ourselves in a long-term relationship, there’s the sudden high of a “honeymoon phase” before the passion is supposed to fizzle out. Well, we call bullshit.
Obviously, when we settle into something warm and cozy, the frenzied impatience to be sexual does taper a little bit. We are no longer wondering if the other person likes us, wants us, finds us attractive. We’re connected, not going anywhere anytime soon, and the “meh, there’s always tomorrow” mindset when it comes to intimacy can be prolonged to excruciating lengths.
We get it. You work long days. You live together. You’re both tired, busy, and stressed, and you don’t always feel sexy. But intimacy is so much more than penetrative sex. While you might not always have the juice (pun not really intended, but we’ll just leave that in there) for a full session, you can still be intimate. Many sex therapists refer to this delightfully as “simmering.”
First, let’s talk touching. We can’t seem to stress enough the importance of touch, especially in relationships. You pet your animals to communicate your love, and humans aren’t that different. Simple affection is the reinforcement of your feelings, your acceptance, and your emotional and physical presence in your partner’s life. Basic gestures of affection like kisses and hugs release endorphins, and endorphins make you happy. And happy people don’t shoot their husbands. But we digress.
Simmering is a little more than x’s and o’s. It’s a little extra sexy, but not necessarily expectant, which can remove a lot of the stress and stigma that goes along with penetrative sex. Essentially, it’s similar to initiation, without expectation. For example, an extra-lingering kiss goodbye in the morning signifies feelings of intent, without propositioning the other person.
Another example is climbing into bed at the end of a long day. It’s likely one of you, if not both, are too tired to even consider removing those comfy sweats you just put on to writhe around and reach a climax. However, some sweet cuddles and soft touching conveys desire and intention without the pressure of expectation. And surprisingly, losing the layer of expectation can actually heighten desire, making the deed itself seem more plausible.
Another great example that many couples can relate to time and time again is a moment in the kitchen. It’s while one partner is cooking or washing dishes, and the other approaches behind them, playfully touching, maybe kissing their neck, and whispering a sweet something in their ear. Some recipients default to annoyance to this type of friskiness. Something like, “can’t you see I’m busy?”
“Intimacy is so much more than penetrative sex.”
Too many times couples avoid sensual moments and even affection all-together because the time or desire to go further isn’t currently there. Don’t confuse simmering for teasing: we don’t want anyone to get entirely aroused and then be left hanging with a feeling of inconsideration or abandonment.
Simmering just means to take a small pause to feel aroused with your partner at some point in the day, at times when sex is not always practical or convenient. No heavy petting, sexy sighs, or clothing removal necessary. This can even be a text, a voicemail, or a photo. It’s not meant to make you feel frustrated, cornered, or pressured in any way.
At the end of the day (or the beginning, or the middle) simmering is simply a reminder of connection with your partner. It’s erotic, yes, but that’s what makes your relationship with each other different from your relationship with others, and that should be something to celebrate, not stress over. And it can result in stronger desire in the bedroom when you do have the time for bedroom business. Do try this at home.